The United Center lived up to its name as the Madhouse on Madison last night as the Chicago Blackhawks won a nitty-gritty Game 5 against the Minnesota Wild.
The Chicago Blackhawks came out swinging against the Wild and it paid off. The Hawks fixed a couple of their biggest problems from the previous two games to come away with a victory and push the Wild to the brink of elimination.
One of the biggest turnarounds for Game 5 was Corey Crawford. Crawford had an abysmal two games in Minnesota after only giving up two goals in the first two games in Chicago. Crawford had 27 saves on 28 shots last night, only giving up one unlucky rebound goal to Erik Haula in the first period. Other than that unfortunate goal, Crawford was solid in net. There were many other opportunities for the Wild later in the game, but Crawford stepped up and silenced all doubters that came out of the cracks the past few days. The biggest aspect that Crawford fixed that will take him far in the playoffs is his glove side. We saw last year against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals that Crawford’s glove side was less than perfect. Crawford’s .964 save percentage and beautiful glove save on Ryan Suter late in the third period showed that those days could be behind him.
Peter Regin and Kris Versteeg joined the lineup last night, resulting in a higher-powered offense. Regin added more to the Hawks attack in one shift than Brandon Bollig has all series. Bollig was suspended for two games for his boarding of Wild defenseman Keith Ballard in Game 4. It was apparent that Regin added that spark the Hawks’ offense needed when they were playing a man up on a delayed penalty in the first period. In the second period, Regin also drew a hooking call from Jonas Brodin, which resulted in Bryan Bickell’s goal to tie the game. Jonathan Toews scored later in the third to give the Hawks their first lead since Game 2. The Hawks did a better job attacking Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov relentlessly with 28 shots.
The final point the Blackhawks addressed was that they succeeded in knocking the Wild off of their game. In the past two games in Minnesota, the Wild have been out-hitting and have been all around more intimidating than the Hawks. Even though the Hawks are not a physical team, it was obvious that they were rattled by the Wild’s physical play. Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke came back from his suspension in Game 4 and was a huge presence for Minnesota. Cooke started off Game 5 with his usual antics of late hits and chirping the opposing players. However; when he became discouraged, he started to quiet down. Cooke was silenced for the most part by none other than Kris Versteeg.
The Blackhawks pulled a complete “180″ when it came to their performances in Games 4 and 5. They now travel back to Minnesota with their heads held high and the Wild pushed to the edge. For this series to end, the Hawks need to give Minnesota their first and last loss at home in the postseason. If the Hawks show the heart and passion when they play on Tuesday, last night could be last time the Wild are at the Madhouse on Madison this season.